Friday, April 22, 2011
If Jerez is home turf of the the landed gentry, or "señoríos," and Sanlucar de Barrameda is where the drug runners live (this is occasionally the explanation you'll get from residents of either town), then El Puerto is where well heeled families from all over this part of Andalucía spend part of their summers. Walking the town, there are attributes that speak to El Puerto's status as a popular resort town: fancily built out restaurants along the water, sweaters draped along the necks of "pijos" in said restaurants, and sparkling clean streets all around.
As it relates to Sherry El Puerto de Santa María is by far the smallest town in production terms in all of the sherry triangle. Most bodegas here are almacenistas, selling their stocks to larger houses. A few recent exceptions to this rule would be Gutierrez Colosia, which has been an independent shipper since the late 1990's and Bodegas Grant, an almacenista which more recently has begun to sell their own production.
Gutierrez Colosia enjoys a prime location, proximate to the Atlantic, and as a result makes one of the freshest tasting, most saline and delicious finos around. You do not need to enjoy it at the winery, or even in Spain, to fully appreciate its immediacy and pristine flavors. Not only does the flor survive here year 'round, but there may be even more of a maritime influence here than in Sanlucar. Typically bodegas maintain humidity by employing dirt floors and occasionally watering them; here the 18th century bodega boasts beautiful stone floors.
We had the opportunity to taste many interesting wines here, including a fino fortified to 16% (1 degree above the normal) which showed a very soft and elegant character. Cool stuff. Also tasted was the fino solera in various stages as well as the solera for the famous "Sangre y trabajadero" Oloroso - as dry, classic and elegant a young oloroso as you are likely to encounter. One thing that was interesting about the fino criadera tastings was their volatility: lots of VA and weird kombucha-y stuff going on right up until we tasted the finished, final blend product, which was completely fine and perfectly representative. Flor consumes volatile acidity in a process that still seems to offer little in the way of clear cut explanations. Lots of research continues to go on about flor and its role in winemaking, as well as other applications and implications yet to be discovered.
Across town at Bodegas Grant, the scale is much smaller and the wines very interesting indeed. From the very start, I noticed that the fino has a real vinous (and some might even say 'unfinished') quality for this style of wine. The entry level amontillado, La Garrocha (named for the famed choreographed dance performed by pure-bred Andalusian horses, performed with a little human direction), is also softer, a bit fruiter and more generous than others, not as tense either. We tasted a delicious, spicier, richer and older amontillado, as well as a very pungent oloroso full of rancio quality, and a rare, tasty palo cortado (as large as our crew was, and as good as everyone was feeling, we joked and later felt bad about drinking our would be "allocation" of this wine).